Abuse of hours
"We’re having a very exciting month in Washington," Donald Trump said as he welcomed guests Thursday night to the annual Congressional Ball at the White House.
The president didn't spell out what he found so exciting, but he didn't have to. By 2 p.m. Thursday, according to The Washington Post, Trump had tweeted 109 times, setting a personal one-day record. They were mostly about impeachment.
Down on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee lumbered through the day and long into the night toward a vote — now rescheduled for Friday — to put the question before the full House. Republicans offered amendments to gut the effort, all doomed and all discussed in full.
The issue before the committee was two articles of impeachment, drafted by the Democratic majority, that Trump had abused his power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstructed Congress' inquiry.
Though the result was inevitable, the desire of some members to rewind and replay arguments was inexhaustible. After California Republican Tom McClintock groaned in the 12th hour that he'd heard nothing new from either side for three hours, Ohio Republican Jim Jordan switched subjects to attacking FBI conduct in the Russia investigation.
Democratic leaders are confident they will win the full House vote next week, though there may be some defections among vulnerable moderates in swing districts, The Washington Post reported. Two senior Democratic aides said the total could be as many as a half-dozen, while a third said the number could be higher.
January promises to be an exciting month, too, as the case against Trump goes to the Senate for trial. Just how exciting remains to be determined. Though Trump has pined for a spectacle leading to a triumphant acquittal, ABC News reports that some top aides appeared to be warming to the idea of a short trial, possibly with no witnesses.
Janison: Fractious factions
James Madison warned in the Federalist Papers that factions heedless of others threaten governments of the people. Here we are again, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
The House impeachment of Trump escalates the most serious display of partisan division in years. The Democratic faction accuses Trump, as ruler of the Republican faction, with abusing his government power for personal benefit.
As a faction leader, president seems to have no Madisonian concern about factions destroying the republic. He likes the flavor of factions. His governance has landed far from the detached balancing of interests that the framers of the Constitution envisioned for elected American leadership.
Trump tells his faction: "They don’t like you. And you explain why. … Your values are so incredible. They don’t like you." He promotes factional divisions within the government he leads, trashing his own FBI director, while his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani feeds him conspiracy theories culled from out-of-power Ukrainian factions.
A real deal with China?
The U.S. and China have reached agreement on a tentative and incomplete trade deal, raising hopes for an end to the trade war down the road.
Trump signed off on a swap of U.S. tariff reductions in return for China spending $50 billion on U.S. farm goods, tightening its intellectual property protections and opening its financial services markets, The Washington Post reported, citing a China expert briefed on the deal and a senior official.
The so-called “phase one” agreement leaves the thorniest issues in the U.S.-China trade dispute to future negotiations starting in 2020. Those include China’s massive subsidies for state enterprises and its practice of forcing foreign companies to surrender technology secrets as a price of entering the Chinese market.
What's behind that wall?
The Defense Department's inspector general plans to review the recent award of a $400 million border wall construction contract to a company that Trump favored.
Tommy Fisher, a GOP donor who appeared several times on Fox News to plug his Fisher Sand & Gravel Co., which was picked by the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of 31 miles of new border barriers in southern Arizona.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), called for the inquiry last week, raising concerns of “inappropriate influence.”
The New York Times reported that military officials raised concerns that the company failed to meet standards, according to one current and one former administration official.
Greta and a grown-up
When Trump tweeted Thursday that someone has an anger problem, it wasn't a moment of introspection. He was aiming at Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl named Time magazine's Person of the Year for inspiring worldwide protests to fight climate change.
"So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!" the president wrote.
Thunberg's stern demeanor, mocked by Trump and others, is connected to her Asperger syndrome. Unfazed by Trump's tweet, she adopted it for her Twitter bio: "A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend."
A Twitter account from Trump's 2020 campaign went in a weird direction, superimposing Trump's head on Thunberg's body to argue he is the Person of the Year.
What else is happening:
- Congressional negotiators reached a tentative deal in principle Thursday to fund the government through the rest of the 2020 fiscal year. If Trump signs off, it will avoid a repeat of the shutdown of a year ago.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended her department’s 18-month delay in processing 240,000 student-loan forgiveness claims for victims of schools that defrauded them. At a hearing, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) lashed out at DeVos, saying, "When many people vote in 2020, they will vote to remove you."
- Trump has told aides he might refuse to participate in debates with the 2020 Democratic opponent, The New York Times reported. His concerns include who would be chosen to moderate.
- Mike Bloomberg's physician reports the 77-year-old Democratic contender is in "outstanding health." His report also says Bloomberg has been treated over the years for an irregular heartbeat and "small skin cancers," takes cholesterol medications and received a heart stent to clear an artery in 2000. He exercises several times weekly.
- Overcoming delaying tactics by Trump allies, the Senate voted Thursday for a resolution recognizing that Turkey a century ago committed genocide against Armenians, killing more than a million. Trump has pursued friendly relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.